CONCORD, N.C. – There’s no denying the progression of Wayne Johnson. The proof is in the pudding.
Although he earned Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year honors in 2020, it was an admittedly slow season of transition for the former ASCS National 360 Sprint Car champion. He made 54 appearances with The Greatest Show on Dirt, but only qualified for 29 Features (53%) and scored one top-10 finish.
Those numbers are drastically different in 2021, specifically the second half of the season, as the Two-C Racing team hits new highs with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series.
Not once, not twice, not thrice, but on more than four occasions has Johnson found himself contending for wins against the likes of Brad Sweet, Donny Schatz, and David Gravel this season.
The Oklahoma City native has racked up 10 top-10 finishes and led multiple races, putting him 11th in the championship standings with another five races left in his sophomore campaign.
“It’s been better definitely, but we’re still not where we want to be,” Johnson admitted. “The biggest difference from last year to this year is going back to these places two, three times. Our notes are getting better and bigger, and honestly, it’s not knowing what to do, but what not to do because it didn’t work out.”
“I say it over and over again, look at the Shark Racing guys,” Johnson continued. “It took them about four years to really get it going, now they’re seven years in and threatening to win almost every race. This deal isn’t a one-year option, it’s a grinding commitment and pays off over time.”
One of the biggest variables in Johnson’s turnaround is the off-season changes in his program.
The team shuffled between four different engine builders last year and unknowingly ran with an issue on their Jacobs Ladders mounts almost all season. The chassis was fixed and Two-C committed entirely to Kistler Engines. Most of their 2020 notes became obsolete, but the crew knew exactly what they had each night now.
“I don’t think we can really count last year with all of the issues we had,” Johnson noted. “Starting this year in Volusia we had speed right away and I think that showed from the changes we made. Then Brian Kemenah came to Eldora and he got us even better.”
The 50-year-old driver has a diligent crew including John Ivey, Darin Robinson, and Zach Patterson carrying the No. 2C up and down the road.
“I love my guys to death, they work their asses for me,” he added on his crew. “I’ve realized when somebody makes all the calls and I just worry about driving, it makes my job easier. It makes me better.”
Among Johnson’s significant milestones this year is his 200th World of Outlaws feature start at Sharon Speedway. Unbelievably enough, he drew the pole position in all four DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash appearances. Four Team Drydene Heat Race wins and two MicroLite Last Chance Showdown victories are also on his resume.
His greatest races included Huset’s in August, when he started pole position and led 13 laps, and Lernerville in September, when outdrove Gravel on lap one and led the initial 12 laps.
The road to Charlotte first leads Johnson through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, all to tracks closer to home and familiar to him.
He’ll head for Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan., on Friday, Oct. 22, then he’s extra excited for a doubleheader on Halloween weekend which takes the Series to Lawton Speedway in Lawton, Okla., on Friday, Oct. 29 and Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas, on Saturday, Oct. 30.
Oklahoma’s Lawton’s date is the Outlaws’ lone appearance in the Sooner State this year. Johnson has won countless races at the quarter-mile bullring, which sits only 70 miles from his house.
“Even when we were no good last year, we were better at those because I have confidence,” he said on racing near home. “I’ve won a lot at both of those tracks. It’s like the PA Posse, you know it’s my home. I’m pumped to go back.”